Monday, September 15, 2014

Detroit Tigers "Star Wars Night"

My first MLB game away from home was at the old Tigers Stadium… vs. the Cleveland Indians!  Some of my greatest memories at Indians home games were always against the Detroit Tigers.  Back in high school, I used to own matching “home” and “away” Tigers baseball hats, direct from the team’s clubhouse -- a gift from my dad’s old Navy buddy, who took us to that game at Tiger Stadium years ago.  So when the Detroit Tigers hosted the Cleveland Indians for this year’s “Star Wars Night” -- you can imagine how much I needed to be there.

In fact, Tigers “Star Wars Night” has become something of an annual tradition for the members of Great Lakes Base and Great Lakes Garrison.  Going back to 2011, the Detroit Tigers have hosted a Star Wars-themed game and has been a crowd favorite ever since.  Organizing an event of this size can be like leading an entire campaign vs. a single battle, and Michigan Captain “kcjohnson” did an amazing job in his first year coordinating this event, on behalf of us Rebels.  In fact, the Tigers game is so special to groups like us -- Snips92 arranged to fly directly to Detroit (from work trip in Boston) just so she wouldn’t miss the opportunity to troop this game!

Now, understand that events like this tend to make for a LONG day for us.  We arrive at Comerica Park around 2:30pm and once everyone is checked in and security looks through our armor bins… then we make our way down to the lower levels, where (much like a relief pitcher) it’s off the bullpen to wait.  Later, once everyone is suited up -- we march outside for a massive group photo, under the giant tiger statue in front of the ballpark.  Unfortunately, we happen to run into a bridal party – who didn’t seem to get the hint that while for the bride this may be “her day”… we’re kinda on a tight schedule.

photo courtesy Kristie Johnson
Once the “David Tutera” drama was over, we head back inside and spread out around Comerica Park to welcome fans as they enter the ballpark.  My group was stationed up on the 300 level, which was rather chilly for mid-September.  As time moved closer to first pitch, we made our way back down to the right field tunnel, for the Star Wars character parade around the field during pregame introductions.  Members of the Michigan Philharmonic played a medley of Star Wars music as we marched around the warning track.  A small group of characters got to take part in the opening pitch ceremony, with Boba Fett getting the call this year.

After that, it was time to meet the fans and take pictures… LOTS of pictures!  If you were lucky enough to make it over where the team had special “Star Wars Night” backdrops (great!) -- otherwise, you just paired up with a few other characters and just braced for wave after wave of photo-ops with fans!  The crowd was super excited to see us, and I always seem to get mobbed by the cute girls whenever I troop in Detroit -- think I should relocate here? ;)

Unfortunately (for us Tribe fans) Alex Avila hit a 2-run homer in the 8 th, giving the Tigers a 5-4 win over the Indians.  It still was fun to be back in Detroit, watching my two favorite teams play each other -- but this time I had to represent CLE by wearing my "Chief Wahoo" hat backstage.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Geek Fan Expo

by: flutefreak05

Today I attended Geek Fan Expo in Dearborn, MI where Timothy Zahn was giving a panel.  A week before, I wrote on his facebook page saying, “Hello Mr. Zahn, I look forward to meeting you with some EOF the 501st members of the Great Lakes Garrison next Saturday at Dearborn fan expo. I will be representing the flagship eclipse as Mara Jade.”

His response was “Wonderful! I'll look forward to seeing you there.”

Right before his panel I saw him walking in the hallway and he came up to me and said, “hello Emperor’s Hand.”  I introduced myself to him and told him I was the one who had written on his Facebook wall and he remembered me; it was one of the best feelings in the world.  He posed for a couple pictures with me and I attended his Q and A panel about his writings.  I raised my hand the same time as another attendee and Timothy Zahn said, “sorry, the Emperor’s Hand gets priority!”  

After the panel he signed my copy of “Choices of One” for me and posed for a photo with both the 501st members present (DS31694 and TK51505).  We visited his table and he continued to talk to us making us feel special.  It was an honor to meet the author that created the character I do and he was decked out in 501st items.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Wookiee's Guide to Dragon*Con

by: Bacca9

This was my first ever Dragon*Con and my experience could not have been more positive.  I learned three very important facts the first day: #1. Atlanta is hot and fur makes it hotter (i.e. HYDRATE!) #2. Despite warnings from Lumpy, I never realized that Chewie is in fact a rock star. #3. Con people are the best kind of people -- for the most part.

I arrived late Thursday night (early Friday morning?) and had to walk two blocks to the hotel; scary for a tiny ginger like myself. Luckily, I was adopted by a fellow con-goer, who escorted me to my hotel and saved me from a particularly shady local.  I promptly crashed as soon as I got my stuff (Wookiee and all) into the room.

Friday was an early day what with having to get my badge, a process I was told could take hours.  It took less than 2 minutes = Win!  The rest of the day was Wookiee-filled, with the prelim judging for the Star Wars costume contest and generally not moving more than a couple feet at a time.  I was amazed by the number of ridiculously awesome costumes wandering around the Marriot and Hyatt and humbled by the fact that a lot of them wanted photos with me.

Saturday was another early morning: up at 7:00am and ready by 8:00am to meet with my fellow Rebels and Imperials for the big Dragon*Con Parade… have I mentioned how HOT Atlanta is?  I’m not the only one who was drenched before we reached the staging area.  Thank God for Boy Scouts!  Young members of the local troop were walking among the costumers distributing cold water bottles, as many as you could drink!  They were even kind enough to open mine for me.  Not sure what merit badge they were going for, but those kids certainly earned it!  The parade itself was an experience, I was lucky to have been offered a spot on the back of the Legion truck,  so Chewie was riding -- in style.  Alex, the Anakin Skywalker I was with, was an absolute crowd pleaser, getting everyone all riled and shouting.  Can’t say for sure how many of us there were, but I can tell you that they put us at the end of the parade because Star Wars groups are by far the crowd favorite.  I was really impressed by the “Planet of the Apes”, “Doctor Who”, and “Once Upon a Time” groups.  Every costume stood out in some way and you could tell they spent as much time and effort on their suits as we do on ours.
photo courtesy Hero Dreams

I got to sleep in on Sunday…until 8:30am.  The Star Wars photo shoot was scheduled for 10:30am and the Star Wars Costume Contest was at 1:00pm; no rest for the Wookiee.  I met some absolutely fantastic people at the shoot.  We even did a tribute photo with the Colonial Fleet “Battlestar Galactica” group -- in honor of a member from both groups, who passed away this past year.  I didn’t know the man, but I can tell you, he was loved and he certainly will be missed.  The rest of the shoot was just as eventful.  I walked up a lot of stairs with the help of a Jedi and A-Wing Pilot, had my picture taken a lot, then walked back down the stairs without falling (thank you again, Jedi and Pilot).

Time flew by rather quickly and I was excited to be in my first ever costume contest with my first ever costume.  There were probably a thousand people in the room watching as I took the stage, first of the face character category, and promptly got my foot stuck in the steps and fell.  I’m fine, a bit embarrassed… but I’m a natural ham, so I got up (with the help of a rather large gentleman) and swaggered over to the MC, and gave him a big Wookiee kiss.  Everyone was fretting and fussing when I left the stage, but after they realized I really was fine -- the subject was dropped.  There were so many amazing and creative costumes present.  My personal favorite won the judges’ choice award.  A beautifully done Queen Amidala in purple brocade and a towering hairdo.  She was in my category along with a Luke Skywalker that was a dead ringer for Mark Hamil, another Chewbacca, and several other high quality work.  So imagine my surprise when they came to the face characters category and called my name!  I didn’t even have my mask on at that point!  I was floored.  The rest of the categories were a bit of a haze because I was still in shock.  When it came time to announce “Best in Show” I wasn’t even paying attention; I knew it had to be Amidala? Yet when they called my name, I figured it was about time to put my mask back on. (haha) Thank God for Angela, my Jedi pal and handler, who kept me focused and carried my trophies and certificates.  I was even more honored when the top ten Star Wars costumes at Dragon*Con were announced and Chewie was number one on the list.  It all means so much to me and I encourage everyone to get out there, be who you want, build what you want, go to Cons, and above all, have fun.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

FanExpo Canada

It has been a few years since I journeyed to Toronto for FanExpo Canada, this year was extra special as it marked the 20 th anniversary for Canada’s largest comic book convention.  Because our Base is so close to the Canadian border at various locations, several members from Great Lakes Base made the trip up for FanExpo.  Lumpy and Mickay crossed on the Michigan side, whereas Snips and I made the Kessel Run (via Buffalo, NY) in less then 12 parsecs -- which after trying to convert miles to kilometers for 5-6 hours doesn’t seem like much.

One of the first things you see you enter the show floor was the massive booth display by Canadian Base, 501st Canadian Garrison and R2-Builders.  On one side, you have a full sized Death Star hallway -- complete with display Imperial props and costumes.  In the middle, you can lookup information on all three groups on working computers in a mockup of the Death Star hanger control room.  Next to that was the “Shoot-A-Trooper” Tantive IV doorway.  On the opposite side of the door was the Tantive IV hallway, where Garrick Hagon (“Biggs Darklighter” from Star Wars: A New Hope) was appearing and signing autographs, as special guest of all the groups.  Plus, full-sized photo booth -- all raising money for Make-A-Wish Canada.

For me, FanExpo was a chance to reunite with my old friend Jedi XXL from Hawkbat Squadron.  Gil and I go way back, and it’s always a good time when Shadow Squadorn and Hawkbat Squadron get together.  As I said earlier, Garrack Hagon was setup over on the Tantive IV side of the booth -- signing autographs and taking picture with fans over in the Tantive IV.  A few Stormtroopers had also taken up position there for pictures with fans; that is until more of us Rebel Pilots started showing up.  It was kinda funny to watch them slowly retreat to a different area as more and more people wanted pictures with the Rebel Legion!


Another highlight of the weekend was the official FanExpo group photo.  The first thing is trying to march a small army of troopers and rebels from the booth (located in the north building) up and down several escalators, across a bridge, and past couple thousand people.  The local guys did an amazing job coordinating with con security to clear us a path through the convention center.  Then, it’s a lot of stand around and wait… and wait, as they line us up and clear the floor as people are trying to exit the con.  Later Garrack Hagon as well as Albin Johnson (founder of 501st) joined us for the group photo.

On Sunday, I had the chance to meet Steve Blum, the voice of “Zeb” in the upcoming Star Wars Rebels.  We talked about the new show and he’s looking forward to meeting more Rebel Legion members at future conventions. Great guy!!!

Thanks to our hosts from Canadian Base and Canadian Garrison, along with R2-Builders for a great weekend of trooping!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Bishyyyk Trooper Project

At this year’s “Bish Bash” fundraiser, Matt “Grumpy” Lindon presented Michael and Cindy Bish (Sam’s parents) with an extra special gift: their own personalized Kashyyyk clonetrooper helmet – decorated in the colors and style of The Sam Bish Foundation.

“Now, I can't tell you what made me do this,” admits Grumpy. “I just felt I should and that it was a good thing to do. I just had to make it.”

As the CO of Great Lakes Base’s Umbara Squad – Grumpy is used to paying close attention to detail when it comes to clontrooper armor. Now, turn that project into a labor of love for the Bish family and this armor is more “work of art” then just another costume project.  Grumpy painted each of the three chest plates and the Kashyyyk clonetrooper helmet (by hand) and personalized each of them with both screen-accurate Star Wars detail as well as various symbols of The Sam Bish Foundation – including the monarch butterfly and yellow ribbon – as well as messages like “In Memory of Sam Bish” (but in Aurebesh – of course)

“I was really a bit overwhelmed by such a generous and beautiful gift.  It was very creative and so well done,” said Michael Bish

Grumpy has a history of going above and beyond the call – where the Bish family is concerned. Four years ago, several of us from Great Lakes Base, Ohio Garrison and Rancor Clan were invited to visit nine-year-old Sam Bish, during his battle with a rare form of bone cancer (Osteosarcoma).  Sam loved Star Wars and the more we witnessed his bravery and that of his parents… it left a lasting mark on each one of us.  Later, when the Bish family invited us to participate in a CureWalk event in Columbus – Grumpy was on the front line, with Sam’s initials painted on his helmet. Then for the inaugural “Bish Bash” – Grumpy personalized one of his Commander Bly chest plates in memory of Sam and the foundation named after him.  This year, the entire Lindon family of clones got involved.

“Ever since meeting Sam, Mike, Cindy, and Courtney, my eyes have been opened to what happens with the kids and their families,” Grumpy reflects. “To lose a child to cancer really breaks me up.”

Michael adds, “It continues to show us what an impact Sam had on the lives he touched, whether he met them for just a moment or not at all.  He continues (even after four years after his passing) to touch so many people.  We are so blessed to have the support of such an amazing group of people and knowing that you all "have our back".  Thank you simply does not begin to show our gratitude to the 501st and Rebel Legion.  You all are family to us and hold a very dear spot in the hearts of the Bish Family.”

Steel City Con Smuggler’s Run

by: dgcook

I first visited the Steel City Con in Monroeville PA in the spring, as both Han Solo and TK-6290 -- and had a wonderful time.  I knew I would go back to the next one as soon as the first day drew to a close.  The convention is currently held 3 times a year.  It has the wonderful feeling of a good size convention that doesn’t feel too big.  And judging from the number of people having fun I think many others were drawn back too.  I recognized many people from the spring visit. 

The convention floor was full each day with enthusiastic people, many in costume and all in a good spirit.  A smile greeted you no matter where you turned.  Everyone seemed to be having fun and enjoying the convention.  The “Blast-A-Trooper” setup was very popular and many a trooper was covered in Nerf darts.  

There are two separate areas in a large convention hall: one mostly filled with vendors and the other with artists; and a great representation of both.  There are lots of great things to look at and too many things I want to take home.  The Ghost Base was stationed in the larger front hall and Garrison Carida with its “Blast-A-Trooper” station was located just as you entered the back section.  While trooping through the isles, I have made some wonderful new friends that I cannot wait to see again.  Both members of Ghost Base and Garrison Carida could not be more welcoming and fun to troop with.

The celebrity autograph section is also located in the back hall.  This year Billy Dee Williams and LeVar Burton (from Star Trek: The Next Generation/Reading Rainbow) were signing and at the December show Peter Mayhew and Michael Dorn will be there.  There were plenty of people to keep Billy Dee and LeVar busy, but not to the point where people had to worry about getting time with them.  I hope to be there again for the next show too and look forward to seeing everyone again.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Bish Bash

It has been almost four years since a boy named Sam Bish passed away from his battle with cancer.  I had only met him once briefly, during a private movie night screening of “Revenge of the Sith” – where Sam was joined by a small army from Great Lakes Base, Ohio Garrison and Rancor Clan.  I remember attending Sam’s funeral, along with an honor guard of Star Wars characters.  In the years that followed, Michael and Cindy formed The Sam Bish Foundation in honor of their son’s memory and either hosted or organized events to help raise awareness for pediatric cancer, many times with the Star Wars groups along with them. So when it came time to rally in Columbus for the second annual “Bish Bash” the choice was simple…

“I have a promise to keep, to an old friend.”

“Bish Bash” is a carnival-style fundraiser event that supports The Sam Bish Foundation work raising awareness of pediatric cancer.   The family-friendly event is held at Westerville Christian Church and features everything from games and bounce houses, food trucks and other vendors, a presentation by the Columbus Zoo and local Fire Departments, along with not just Star Wars characters… but a collection of princesses, super-heroes from Heroes Alliance and even the TARDIS and Doctor Who Columbus.

The Bish family has a place in the hearts of many within Great Lakes Base, but probably none more so then “Grumpy” and his family of Kashyyk clonetroopers.  Last year, Grumpy decorated the chest plate of his Commander Bly armor with The Sam Bish Foundation… this year, the entire “squad” had each personalized their chest plates, and Grumpy even custom painted a clonetrooper helmet in Sam Bish colors – as a gift for Michael and Cindy.

For this year’s Bish Bash, we also wanted to do something extra special for the silent auction.  Several of us pooled resources to have a custom lightsaber built by Simpi Sabers.  This lightsaber was silver and blue, with a yellow blade – the colors of The Sam Bish Foundation.  And while lightsabers have always been known as an “elegant weapon”… the Bish saber is particularly beautiful when you understand its symbolism.  When it was all over, it was Sam’s grandfather who placed the winning bid on the lightsaber – crafted in memory of his grandson – and I kind of like the fact that this blade will stay in the family.

photo courtesy The Sam Bish Foundation

Once again, the Bish Bash was a huge success – with plenty of smiling children and good memories!  For more information on The Sam Bish Foundation, visit